After my impromptu Manchester debut the previous week, I almost immediately set about plotting routes to complete the city’s GBG pubs. It seemed easily manageable. Now I could visualise the crawls, I needed to crack on. I wanted to really get to know this city – and what better way than through its pubs?
This is a tricky one to find, not aided by my eyes being drawn to find the source of the tantalising food aroma. I suspected this was Cafe Istanbul across the road.
I had visited this pub before, so this return visit generated a new self-imposed stupid pubticking rule: previous visits do not count.
But I was returning here for a good reason: it was a wonderful pub that I simply must tell you about, dear reader.
It’s a cellar bar, which I’m a huge fan of. There’s something magical about descending into a secret underground den, where it’s impossible to see the outside world.
At the foot of the stairs, I turned right, then right again and found myself in a busy bar. The bar was straight ahead, with a beer board on either side. Here’s the one on the left:
There was a woman sitting in front of the cask and tap beer board but I decided against asking her to move. She looked very comfortable – almost collapsed against the wall – plus I was still suffering from slight anxiety of pubcrawling in a strange city alone post-lockdown.
I did, however, snap the pump clips for your delectation.
Stout for me, obvs, served by a friendly barmaid with blue hair.
I noticed the customers served before and after me both ordered pints of water. Had I missed something? Had there been a party here this afternoon?
There were no vacant tables in the bar, so I headed to explore the rear of the pub.
I settled back in my seat, removed my hat and unzipped my coat. I spotted a drinks menu on the table, so began flicking through it. The spirits section made me chuckle, with the more elite options under a ‘to sip’ heading.
Does ANYONE buy tequila ‘to sip’…?
Seriously, though, it’s delightful that The Gas Lamp drinkers are being encouraged to savour these drinks. I fully agree that some drinks are for quaffing but others are worthy of your full attention over a more prolonged period. I’d find the perfect example of this in Cardiff this weekend but you’ll have to wait for details of that.
The man at the next table fell over a chair on his way to the Gents so I supped up before I began to feel drunk by proxy.
Further down Deansgate I was pleased to hear the street piano being played outside the music shop.
My favourite thing about Manchester is its quirky creativity. I’ve seen a magician flouncing down the street in a top hat and cloak. And, amidst the hustle and bustle of the morning commute, I once saw an artist at the top of the escalators at the exit to Piccadilly station, serenely working with a paintbrush at his easel.
On my walk to my second pub of the night, there was another tantalising aroma – this time it was something smoky. I couldn’t identify the restaurant, although it was around El Gato Negro, which I just remembered I had a voucher for. If I’d known it was on tonight’s route, I’d have popped in for tea.
I was using Google Maps to navigate but I was trying to memorise the maps ahead of time, so I could take in the Manchester sights and landmarks and really get to know the city in person. At every corner where I need to turn, I find a landmark on the map to look out for. I knew I needed to turn left at Flight Club. I’d been to this darts bar in Birmingham and Manchester and can recommend it for a fun night out. I think there’s even decent bottled/canned beer in the Manchester one.
Beermoth was another revisit. Indeed this was one of the first craft beer bars I’d ever visited. Ever since I’d been confused as to whether it was called Beermoth or Beerwolf. I think I’ve got it cracked now. M for Manchester, W for Wolves.
Tonight I was also confused as to which side of the road this pub was on. And was it a pub or a cafe? And, if it was a cafe, why couldn’t I find their food menu online?
I spied this sign across the road from where I was, crossed to investigate further and realised this was Cafe Beermoth (M for Manchester).
I entered and immediately approached the bar. No pump clips here, but the beers were listed above and behind the bar.
I opted for the Dig Mild. I can never resist a mild; also this was a beer from the city that I grew to love over the last 20 years: Birmingham. Obvs my most recent visit was less than great but I’ll be back soon to try and remedy that.
The barmaid (are we still allowed to call them that?) did something weird to the head of my beer with some sort of implement before handing it to me. Confident Jane would have straight out asked her what the gadget was and what she’d just done with it, but she wasn’t out tonight. I hope she comes back soon, because she has much more fun.
There was plenty of available seating in this roomy pub. I chose a seat with my back to the wall/window on the left hand side as you walk in, allowing me an opportunity to really study the pub’s interior.
Frankly, this was an EXPANSE. Look how high the ceiling is! I felt like an ant. But I kind of liked it. There was space in here – it wasn’t a cramped pub, packed with people – and I really liked that.
The music was sufficiently interesting for me to ask for the WiFi password so I could Soundhound it (and check in on Untappd and Twitter).
The WiFi led me to the food menu (yippee!), which included a particularly interesting range of sausage rolls.
Alas I had already stuffed my face with two bars of chocolate before heading out, unsure whether I would find any food in my planned pubs. Well, I’ll know for next time, when I’ll be all over that Pork, Tikka Spice & Mango Chutney one.
I’d heard good things about this place. On entry, I found this small pub already heaving and I had my work cut out to negotiate a path to the bar.
Now at the bar, four pump clips in front of me, I spotted another four further down the bar. I had no hope of reading these, let alone photographing them. It was also very dark in here, which didn’t help in this regard.
I did, however, photograph the pickled eggs.
‘What can I get you?’
‘Err…the Plum Porter…probably…unless you’ve got another dark one on down there…?’
‘Yes we have. It’s…Thornbridge McConnels. It’s a vanilla stout.’
‘Ooh I’ll have a half of that, please.’
Get me, resisting a Titanic Plum Porter! But I could have that any time. I couldn’t remember seeing that Thornbridge one before.
I had spied a beer board by the entrance, so I squeezed my way back over there to photograph it.
This was not a true representation of what was on offer tonight but I suppose it gives a fairer example of what’s usually on.
Now I remembered that the reason I’d scheduled this particular crawl in for tonight – so close on the back of last week’s Manchester crawl – was because there was a Thornbridge Tap Takeover on here tonight.
My next challenge was to find a seat. I realised I’d have to do what I usually did on visits to the Welly in Birmingham and ask to sit at a table that was already occupied.
My first two attempts attracted looks that made me wonder if I’d just accidentally told the occupants that their breath smelled. But a man at a nearby table overheard and immediately made space for me to sit on the bench seating next to him.
We chatted for a few minutes about what beer we were drinking (he was on the Guinness) and I told him about my pub crawl and he asked where else I was off to. Soon he and his mate moved on to their next stop, freeing up the rest of the table.
As space was at such a premium here tonight, I soon found myself joined by someone else wanting to join me at this table. He was a friendly native and I soon realised that he must be CAMRA. But he couldn’t POSSIBLY be Central Manchester CAMRA (boo hiss!), could he?
As we got deeper into conversation and I told him about my blog, I found myself handing him my business card. But, in the moment before I let go – effectively giving him the link to the first part of this series, in which I’d been slightly scathing about the local CAMRA branch – I simply had to get a definitive answer.
Of COURSE he was from a different branch. This was Chris from Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA.
We continued to chat at length. How lovely to have found a friend to talk to in Manchester. This was pub #7 and the first in which anyone had spoken to me. Chris confessed that he’d missed his train home through talking to me, so my mind was made up to get another drink in (that Plum Porter, of course) so I, too, could stay a little longer.
Chris told me about the Mild Trail organised by Stockport CAMRA. This is an 88 pub trail of pubs offering mild during April and May. Prizes are available for visiting as few(!) as 12 pubs. There’s also a Mild Magic Scrabble game as part of the trail, which sounds right up my street. Knowing my penchant for getting addicted to things, I need to keep well away from this trail. Hmm…do I…?
I also learned that Central Manchester CAMRA is a new branch, following the carving up of the Manchester region.
Chris told me loads of stories ‘you can put them in your blog if you want’ but frankly I think I was so overcome that someone was actually talking to me that I can’t remember any of them. He was good company though. So much so that I invited him to join me at my last pub of the crawl.
Chris led the way via the scenic route of the Chinese Quarter. It wasn’t the most direct route but it looked pretty and smelled nice.
I had been in this pub before, too, but not for maybe ten years. I still wanted to call it ‘The Old Grey Mare’ thanks to this Simpsons episode.
The bar was easily navigable and here are tonight’s beer offerings.
Chris bought the drinks here and we both had the Dark Ruby – which was apparently the mild that had been rebranded by Hyde’s when mild wasn’t deemed a sexy beer. How could we have anything other than the mild, since we’d been talking about it for the past half hour? The price totalled something ridiculous like £2.35 for the two halves. I was astounded, as I’d been paying no less than £2 PER HALF everywhere I’d been. The barman explained:
‘We have an offer on the cask beer every Monday and Thursday. That’s the price for a pint but I’ve put the two halves through as a pint so it counts as part of the deal.’
How lovely was that? This is the sort of customer service that I really value and that will gain my repeat custom.
We took a seat in the corner at the front of the pub and resumed our chat.
Before I headed off to catch my train, I made the all-important visit to the Ladies to ensure I wasn’t caught short on the train home. And what a delight they were!
By the time I got to Piccadilly station, I was famished. Manchester had been taunting me all night with those delicious food aromas! I scooted across to Sainsbury’s for a sandwich (but no sweets, still mindful of my diet).
As I descended onto Platform 14, I chuckled as a man from New Zealand muttered:
‘Every time I come to this station it’s fucking cold.’
You want to try Platform 1 at Preston, pal! At least there’s shelter here…
I looked down and noticed my shoes were becoming ‘Manchestered’ and would soon need replacing. My first pair lasted only a few months of tramping the wet Manchester streets before falling apart. It always rains here. Maybe I should opt for wellies next time…?
I probably watched something on the journey home but I don’t remember what because I’ve had a busy old time since then. Which you’ll be able to read about in my forthcoming Football Tourist’s Guide To Cardiff.
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